The warm and welcoming reggae appeal that District of Columbia-based SOJA brings with them on tour is always a unique one. With their reggae songs preaching peace, hope and positivity, the love truly ran deep in Philadelphia. The weather outside was icy and bitter but inside the venue was a completely different scene. The band’s sold out show Feb. 28 packed the venue tightly from wall to wall, making The Electric Factory the warmest, most loving and welcoming place in Philly that night.
Upon entering, the venue was already jam-packed all the way to the back, with the soulful sounds of pop reggae group Common Kings, the solo singer songwriter with Tongan roots, Leilani Wolfgramm and Samoan reggae singer J Boog. Throughout the night SOJA would bring out Common Kings and J Boog to perform alongside them. This included songs such as “Let’s Do It Again,” “No Other Love,” “Mentality” and “Easier.”
“This tour is great because we get to play with some of our favorite artists and we get to bring them on stage with us,” frontman Jacob Hemphill said, “we hope you guys appreciate it, are you feelin’ the show so far?” The crowd responded by cheering in approval.
Personally, it was an awesome experience for me to be able to see the venue filled with a crowd of people who were just as stoked and excited as I was to watch a band of guys I actually grew up listening to. From their early years, I saw SOJA play at relatively smaller venues in the Washington and northern Virginia areas — venues like The 9:30 Club in the District. To watch them walk out onto the Electric Factory stage to a crowd full of cheers and applause felt surreal for me.
“Thank you for having us. We’re some of the luckiest people in the world I don’t know if you can tell,” Hemphill said sarcastically while a smile grew wide on his face.
Eight-piece reggae outfit provided one of the most entertaining reggae music concerts I’ve ever seen. At one point in their show, they turned the venue into island mode and performed an upbeat drum portion. This is something I always look forward to when going to see a SOJA show. The band lines up all kinds of drums and bongos and entertains the crowd with some real island music. During their performance that night, they created a jam session of drums. This part got the crowd super pumped and excited, allowing fans who weren’t already dancing to get in the groove.
Throughout the set, Hemphill continued to express his gratitude to SOJA’s Philadelphia fans. Before playing “To Whom It May Concern,” Hemphill told the crowd, “Here we are, selling out the Electric Factory.” Bassist Bobby Lee Jefferson (known as Bumblebee) began the song with a very authentic Jamaican sound, which the crowd enjoyed immensely.
Prior to playing their final song, “Shadow,” sung primarily by lead guitarist Trevor Young, Hemphill told the crowd a story about a time they came to The Electric Factory when they were young kids.
“We drove up from D.C. and we were smoking weed in the back of the venue and we thought this was the coolest thing that ever happened.” He then talked about why The Electric Factory had so much meaning to him. “When I got into my singer songwriter Strength to Survive days, I was listening to a lot of this band called The Fray and I know they’re commercial and everything right now, but Isaac Slade is a genius songwriter and their big live album is from The Electric Factory.” The crowd roared with cheers and the band continued to beam smiles on stage.
“Now I get to stand here in front of all of you,” Hemphill said, “I get to call my family and tell them that I sell out shows at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia.” Again the crowd burst into cheers. “We thank you guys from the bottom of our hearts because this means the world to us. Seriously, it’s a big deal.”
As “Shadow” played on, Trevor Young stepped up to the mic and expressed his own gratitude to the crowd. “One of the first concerts I ever went to was 311 at The Electric Factory and I never thought for one moment in that crowd that I’d be up here on this very stage. Thank you all very much. Much love tonight!”
And much love there was that night. The next time SOJA tours through the Philadelphia area, you shouldn’t miss a chance to see them. They continue to put on shows filled with love, peace and celebration.